Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III expressed concerns about the understanding reached between the P5+1 and Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Thursday. Baker wrote that there appeared to be “serious misunderstandings” between the negotiating parties on what a final agreement would look like, most notably regarding the phasing of sanctions relief, the verification mechanism, the “snapback” re-imposition of sanctions, and Iran’s refusal to disclose information about its past work on its nuclear program, which is necessary for a robust verification regime. Baker urged Secretary of State John Kerry to convince the other P5+1 nations to support a non-negotiable stance on these outstanding questions.
The Iranian leadership’s position that all sanctions must be removed upon signing any final agreement “is a far cry from the U.S. understanding that sanctions will only be removed over time, as Iran meets its obligations…[I]f Iran holds to it, there should be no final agreement,” Baker wrote.
Baker is the third former Secretary of State to raise questions about the understanding between the P5+1 and Iran. Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz wrote an op-ed earlier this month in which they expressed skepticism about a one-year breakout period, arguing that the concept of keeping Iran at a one-year breakout was a weakening of the original P5+1 stance, which was to ensure that Iran was only permitted a capacity compatible with a civilian nuclear program. One of their major criticisms was a “broad-based asymmetry” in the understanding, “which provides Iran permanent relief from sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints on Iranian conduct.”
David Rothkopf, the CEO and Editor of The FP Group, which publishes Foreign Policy, raised the same question in a piece on Thursday. The P5+1 powers are, he wrote, “renting [Iran’s] restraint”: rewarding the regime with significant sanctions relief, which he estimated would amount to approximately $420 billion in a 15-year agreement, for Iran to freeze its program. In comparison, he wrote, Iran’s “Syrian client state had a GDP of about $65 million in 2011 before the crisis there heated up and devastated the country. Its would-be client Yemen has a GDP of about $36 billion.” The sanctions relief would allow Iran to “extend its influence, buy weapons, and underwrite terrorist groups to an even greater extent than it has been doing throughout the period the country has felt the squeeze of sanctions.”
[Photo: U.S. Department of State / Wikimedia]